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Workers slam rail safety: Poll blows whistle on lax regs

(The following article by Dave Wedge was posted on the Boston Herald website on September 30.)

BOSTON -- Union railway workers fear terrorists could easily target freight trains criss-crossing the country, including cars hauling nuclear waste and other hazardous materials, according to a report ripping federal officials and rail companies on security.

``Dangerous and possibly deadly situations are a daily occurrence on the rails,'' said John Murphy, director of the Teamsters Rail Conference, which polled 4,000 union rail workers, including many in Massachusetts. ``The rail corporations and the Federal Railroad Administration must be held accountable for the appalling state of security on the rails and the lack of safety training our members receive.''

Among the shocking findings:

-- 94 percent of workers said rail yard access was not secure;

-- 83 percent reported no terror training in the past year;

-- 70 percent reported seeing trespassers in rail yards;

--96 percent reported no police presence at rail facilities;

-- 97 percent said there is no signal or code for a hijacking or terrorist attack.

-- 69 percent reported seeing running trains left unattended.

``We have done virtually nothing with our rail security, especially after (the) Madrid and London (train bombings),'' said U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Somerville). ``These are very easy targets. To do nothing, which is what we have done, is unacceptable.''

The report comes on the heels of statements by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who angered Democrats when he said the federal government isn't responsible for subway, train and bus security.

``That struck me like a brick,'' Capuano said of Chertoff's comments. ``I've never thought the federal government can make everything perfectly secure, but you don't just do nothing.''

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Malden), who sits on Congress' Homeland Security Committee, said: ``In this age of increased demand for safety within our borders, it is unconscionable that these employees witness these frightening lapses in security on our rails each day.''

``The facts in this report show the outcome of the (Bush) administration's lack of spending for rail and transit security compared to the billions of dollars committed to airline security,'' he said.

Friday, September 30, 2005

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